Nigeria, Russia Renew Ties for Economic Growth
By Adedapo Adesanya
Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Vladimir Putin met on Wednesday in Sochi, Russia, for the Russia-Africa Forum to discuss partnership between both Nigeria and Russia in order to advance Russian investments in Africa and also promote African business interests in Russia.
During the meeting, both countries agreed to collaborate in order to revive and solidify the venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom for the development of Nigeria’s enormous gas potential and infrastructure.
Mr Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Buhari, said in a statement that leaders of the countries have agreed to start new infrastructure projects and expand trade and investment, security and military cooperation.
“Nigeria and Russia will work together to improve efficiency of Nigeria’s oil sector, which is the backbone of the economy, in a way that will see to rehabilitation of epileptic oil refineries through establishment of framework for a joint venture between Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Russia-based leading oil company, Lukoil,” the statement noted.
It was further disclosed that the NNPC and Lukoil will work towards prospection of oil in deep offshore, with the leaders also deliberating on security as President Buhari agreed to renew Nigeria-Russia Military Technical Agreement that had was met with a short life span.
“I have directed the Minister of Defence to work with the Ministry of Justice to conclude this matter within the shortest possible time,” The President was quoted as saying in the statement.
This military cooperation agreement is expected to further cooperation in direct procurement of military hardware on a government-to-government basis at a lower cost as well as training of military personnel and modernization of armed forces and renewal of infrastructure and equipment.
On infrastructure, the Russia government agreed to support development of Nigeria’s rail infrastructure by constructing 1,400 kilometres track from Lagos to the South-South city of Calabar.
Speaking on the advancement of ongoing project for the establishment of a nuclear power plant in Nigeria, President Putin said the next step in the implementation of the project should be the commencement of construction of a power plant.
He also agreed to the return of Russia for completion and commissioning issue of the uncompleted and abandoned Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill that was presented by President Buhari.
On protracted issue of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) located in Ikot-Abasi, Akwa-Ibom State, President Buhari said he has asked the Ministry of Justice to submit a comprehensive report on the UC Russel (the Russian owners of the plant) matter.
“I want to assure you that the aim of our reforms is to ensure such investments are concluded and actualized in a professional and painless manner,” he reportedly said.
The two Presidents also addressed partnership in education and agriculture with Russia saying that they would give additional scholarships to Nigerians willing to study in the country.